Friday, 31 October 2008

Florencio "Campo" Campomanes is Mr Chess

Last Wednesday, Viswanathan Anand successfully defended his world chess title crown in a match with Vladimir Kramnik, a former world chess champion. For about two weeks, I had been following this match on the Internet, relying on relays from Chess Cafe, This Week In Chess, the Internet Chess Club and of course, reading Susan Polgar's blog and ChessBase.

I admit that it was a learning experience. When you follow a live game played at the highest levels, you learn in two ways (at least, for me, I learnt in two ways). One, doing your own (superficial) analysis of the position and seeing whether your assessment was correct. Two, reading the running commentary by the grandmasters and learning from them.

All I can say is, sometimes I was correct but most times, I was way off track. There's still a lot for me to learn.....

Florencio Campomanes, the World Chess Federation's honorary life president, was at hand to give away the prizes to both Anand and Kramnik. I'm pleasantly surprised by the endurance of this man. He's already 82 years old but his energy, dedication and love for chess remains unabated. Thank goodness that he looks fully recovered from a horrifying car accident in February 2007 which had put him into intensive care.

I first met Campo in 1974 when as a college student, I had played in the inaugural Asian team chess championship. Here's a photo of me enjoying a blitz game with him. I can't remember when this was snapped but it could be sometime in the early 1990s. You can take it from me: his appearance had hardly changed although he may be physically slower now. Every time we met, he would greet me with his incredibly thick accent: "Queh".

Muka Head lighthouse

It must have been about eight to 10 years ago that my friends and I went tracking from the Teluk Bahang village to Teluk Duyung. From Teluk Duyung, a short hike up the hill took us to the Muka Head lighthouse. At that time, the lighthouse was still accessible to people. We were able to climb up for a wonderful view from the Muka Head promontory. I've heard that it's no longer possible to go into the lighthouse's compound. Here are four photographs from my short trip there.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

PFS 1816

I wonder whose car this belonged to. It was parked right next to me this morning. Or rather, my car was parked right next to it. Normally, I wouldn't give a second thought to the registration number of any car in the building or on the roads but something made me glance at this one.

Was it so coincidental that the number plate showed PFS 1816? PFS is, of course, the Penang Free School, my alma mater and 1816 was the year that the school was founded. Then, I noticed the school's crest on the number plate.

Surely, this car must belong to an Old Free, one who had gone to great lengths to obtain this registration number, one who is terribly proud of his roots. I wondered who he might be, because when I went to collect my car a few hours later, PFS 1816 was gone.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

George Town's Pitt Street: Focal point of religions

Pitt Street in George Town is the focal point of religious beliefs in Penang. Call it a Heritage trail if you like, because if you walk from one end of the road (junction with Farquhar Street) to the other (junction with Jalan Kampong Kolam), in quick succession you'll come across the St George's Anglican Church, the Kuan Yin Temple, the Mahamariamman Temple and the Kapitan Kling Mosque, all dating back to at least the 19th Century.

So I found it rather incongruous to see that several years ago, the authorities - must be the Penang Island Municipal Council - had erected (sic) these rather silly barriers along both sides of the road. Methinks, they could have chosen a more appropriate design than this. I would think that they are hardly suitable. Someone in the Council must have had a warped sense of humour, and I'm being wicked.

But what else is new? Already, Penang owns the world's two largest sex organs. These rows of silly barriers in Pitt Street hardly measure up to the majesty of the Komtar tower/geodesic dome complex or the Penang Hill funicular railway, or do they?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The cow's burp

The next time you want to take a stand against global warming, don't always look for the perpetual scapegoats in cars, factories and oil companies. You should also blame livestock such as cows.

Yes, seriously.

In 2006, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that the livestock sector emerged as "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."

So how does the cow come into the picture? Answer: by the methane they give off when they chew their cud and belch, and nitrous oxide and ammonia when they leave manure all over the barnyard. What stinks on a farm obviously smells bad for the global environment too.

The FAO report said that methane, while less prevalent in the air than carbon dioxide, is 23 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas, and livestock is responsible for 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas problem.

It added that farm waste is not very biodegradable and is a major source of water pollution when washed away by rain. The methane and ammonia in cow dung rise into the air with evaporating water and fall back as ingredients of acid rain.

How best to tackle this issue? Thus far, suggestions range from changing the cattle's feed to even genetically engineering the cattle. There is even noise to impose a methane tax on cattle farmers but it has been laughed off. Until a viable solution can be found, most people will think that this furore is mostly hot air or ... bullshit.

The Straits Echo postbag (5)

For personal indulgence only: more on Penang Chess .....

POSTBAG, 18 October 1972
SIR - Despite the fact that the USSR's 24-year domination of the World Chess Championships had been spectacularly and dramatically terminated by Bobby Fischer of the United States at Reykjavik, Iceland, recently, the conclusion of the 20th Chess Olympiad at Skopje, Yugoslavia, has once again proved beyond any doubt that the Russians still are undisputedly the supreme masters of the game. My heartiest congratulations go to the Soviet players for their brilliant performance.

Although the Malaysian team did not fare well, credit must be given to the Government and the Chess Association of Malaysia for being able to field a Malaysian national team to this tournament - the first ever since the initiation of the Chess Olympiad.

It is heartening to note from your report under the caption, 'Pesta to include 15 sporting events' that the MSSM Chess Championships has been included. This is indeed a most fitting climax to the introduction of inter-school chess tournaments by the Majlis Sukan Sekolah- sekolah Malaysia throughout the nation.

But this, however, does not necessarily mean that no inter-school chess tourneys had been organised in the various states prior to this move. On the contrary, as far as Penang is concerned, several inter-school chess tournaments, both International and Chinese, had been successfully organised by the Penang Schools Students Chess Council (which comprises the Chess Clubs of various Secondary Schools) annually since 1966.

All in all, the PSSCC has undertaken the organisation of a total of 10 Chess tourneys, for both sexes and varied age-groups, each year! I salute this initiative on the part of these students.

In the light of this developing interest in chess (incidentally, T.V. Malaysia should be applauded for its praiseworthy efforts in including chess in its programme) I would like to make a special suggestion to Mr Joseph Kay, official-in-charge of Chess in the Pesta Games and sports Sub-committee, and Mr Fang Ewe Churh, President of the Penang Chess Association and organiser of the recent MSSPP Chess Championships (he was also the Deputy Manager and Captain of the Malaysian team to Skopje!), to look into the feasibility of organising a Penang Open Inter-team Chess tournament in addition to the MSSM Chess Championships, which is only confined to students, and as one of the sporting events of the Pesta.

I firmly believe that if widely publicised, this tournament, probably the first of its kind, will be a resounding success.


Monday, 27 October 2008

Katrina ceremony at Buddhist Hermitage Lunas 2008

My family and I were at the Buddhist Hermitage Lunas this morning for the Katrina robe-offering ceremony. It's a day earmarked for devotees to offer robes to the monks. The ceremony started off with a procession 0f Buddha's image round the premises.

And later, the Katrina ceremony itself.

Never knew about the extent of the Burmese community in this part of the country but obviously, there is a huge presence. They were at the Hermitage too and they were having a fun time cooking, eating and talking. They must've come by the busloads because I would estimate their number to be about 80 to 100 people.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Russell Morris: The Real Thing

This was a totally unexpected find when I was going through the second-hand vinyl records in the little shop yesterday. I can't remember what caught my attention more: the title of the album, the artiste's name or his picture. Thinking back, I think it was the name but the album practically jumped right out at me!

But who is Russell Morris? What songs were he known for? When was he famous? Three short questions to which I hope to give three short answers but not necessarily in the same order.

Russell Morris is a musician, singer, song-writer and guitarist. He's not terribly well-known outside Australia but he was a very big star in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That was about the same time that I got my musical awakening through the Radio RAAF Butterworth. Nowadays, he does the club scene.

His first hit that registered with me was the Johnny Young-penned song The Real Thing in 1969 which he followed up with Part Three Into Paper Walls (also written by Young). Both songs were magnificent attempts at Australian psychedelic pop music produced by Ian "Molly" Meldrum. But of course, Morris had other more typical hits like The Girl That I Love (by Young again, of course), Rachel and of course, Wings Of An Eagle.

By the way, both The Real Thing and Wings Of An Eagle were used in The Dish (which I've just dug out from my collection of DVDs), an Australian movie which has as its background the historic Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969.

Sorry if you were not into the Australian music scene at that time, but these were big hits there. On 1 July 2008, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) recognised Russell Morris' iconic status by inducting him into the ARIA Hall Of Fame.

Considering that Morris would be practically unknown elsewhere in the world, it was therefore fortuitous to find this album in the shop. Somehow, someone unknown here liked his music too to the extent that he brought his greatest hits album back to Malaysia. It's now in my hands. The album's cover was still in relatively good condition and the record itself still retains its audio quality, save for the usual pops and crackles.

Here's something from YouTube: still photos of Morris but The Real Thing in full:

And check this out: a recent awesome, live acoustic version of the song by Morris some 38 years later:

An exercise in pomposity

From the back cover of the Acker Bilk album, Stranger On The Shore, in which Side One is called "Upon Side The First" and Side Two becomes "Upon the Obverse", there's this little note: The Recording committed to Posterity upon the 12th Day of August and upon the 8th Day of November in the Year of Grace Nineteen Hundred and Sixty. Recording first published in Nineteen Hundred Sixty and One.

But there's more:
MR. ACKER BILK, a taciturn Stalwart reared in the Welch Border Country, is a Virtuoso of the Clarionet. Customarily, he heads a small Ensemble devoted to the Purveyance of that extempore Polyphony or "Jazz" associated traditionally with the Inhabitants of New Orleans - in which Guise (it would seem scarcely necessary to remind the gentle Reader) he looms as a Colossus over his raucous Contemporaries, overcoming by his Expertise and Dexterity both the Intricacies of his Instrument and any Claims to Parity which his Rivals might be foolish enough to advance.

Since first the incandescent Brilliance of this Congregation of sonic Adventurers burst, like a display of St. Catherine's Fire on a musical Scene illumined previously only by the fitful Flickerings of lesser Talents, the Music so ably plucked, blown, bashed and thumped by Mr. Bilk and his Entourage has increasingly commanded the Plaudits of the Swells. Through the Media of Wireless Telegraphy, the electrified Loud-hailer, the Concert Hall, the Cathode Ray Tube and others too numerous to list, they have startled great Shouts of Acclaim which ring ever more freely from each Corner of the Land.

There are, however (as the Sage has aptly remarked), more Ways of destroying a Feline than suffocating the Beast with Cream. And the gigantic Talent which sits so lightly upon the wide Shoulders of Mr. B. cannot easily be restricted to so confined a Channel. What more noble an Embodiment of Man's most cherished Aspirations (thought he) than the dulect Cadences of that tender Instrument, the Clarionet! What more suitable a Vehicle for the rapt Expression of that Exaltation which burns the Breast, for the Lamentations of the Disconsolate, for the relation of a stirring Theme! And accordingly he presents here, in a Fashion never before essayed, a Collection of the more lyric Pieces illustrative of these distinguished Emotions, for the edification of the Intelligent - what Time Mr. Leon Young and his String Chorale achieve a seemly Display of Virtuosity in his Aid.

The Results, as you shall hear, are splendid in the Extreme: in themselves sufficient for the consequent Elevation of the Artiste from the coarse "Mister" to the Style and Title of "Esquire."
I swear never before in my life that I've read such pomposity in any album liner note (the writer sniffed and called his work a "Commentary")!

Vinyl record goldmine in Bukit Mertajam

It's already unusual to come across second-hand vinyl record dealers in Penang, and it's really rarer still to see anyone selling used records in Bukit Mertajam. But that was what I came across yesterday. There weren't many selections - possibly about 100 titles comprising known and unknown artistes and performers, original-pressed records and fakes, some still in very good album covers and others falling apart, records with surfaces in good condition and some with horrible scratches and dirty. The whole works.

I rummaged through the pile of records and came away with these gems. The surfaces still looked in good condition and I really wouldn't be able to tell without cleaning them and playing them. Stranger On The Shore by Acker Bilk; The Very Best Of Connie Francis; Chris de Burgh's Into The Light (ooh ... The Lady In Red); Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (or OMD) with La Femme Accident and Wings Of An Eagle by Russell Morris.

What's more, I also bought three seven-inch records: George Michael's Careless Whisper, Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson's I Know Him So Well from the album CHESS, and USA For Africa's We Are The World.

So I'm really feeling smug that I may have struck gold yesterday. Vinyl gold, that is. More, later!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

wireless@penang forum

I've just received a text message from a friend in the Chief Minister's office to say that the Penang state government jointly with the MCMC will be organising a wireless@penang forum at the Geodesic Dome, Komtar on Nov 8 (Saturday) from 2pm to 5pm to allay public concerns about the WiFi and WiMax services that will cover the state soon.

"Come with an open mind and come with your questions," the message said. Well, I do hope those Doubting Thomases will go and attend the forum. Don't just make noises from the comfort of your homes.

Photo Archive: Ban Hin Lee Bank sport day

Nope, this wasn't me, but I was the one behind the camera. The moment was one of the early Ban Hin Lee Bank sport days in the 1980s. In an effort to modernise and expand, the bank started to employ new people. We were all in our twenties or thirties and we had lots of energy which the bank thought fit to channel into wholesome recreational activities like sport meets.

This was one such occasion at the city stadium. Like I said, I was behind the camera and in those days, I had no qualms to jump into (dry) drains or climb a tree just to get the shots I want. And I particularly liked this shot. It was one of my luckiest moments. It froze Thoy Yew Lam in the air as he sailed across the long jump pit. Caught him at a critical moment in full concentration and muscles straining, and everything in sharp focus.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Old photograph

This is a really old photograph. It looks very dirty but this is the best I can do to clean it up from the negative. (Actually, all I did was to put the negative onto the scanner bed. Was to lazy to search for a shop that could print it.)

Anyway, it showed the interior of the Ban Hin Lee Bank building in Beach Street, George Town. It must have been in the late 1930s or early 1940s. I would think that the people in the photograph were the staff of the bank at that time. Leisurely pace of life. From the camera's viewpoint, this was looking towards the building's entrance.

So much to do, don't know where to start

There are days when there are lots of things to write about; there are also days when there seems to be nothing much to say. This looks like one of them. So if you see crap postings on this blog, you know what's happening!

Truth is, I've just been too bloody busy with a lot of distractions at home. Coaching my son with some of his revision work, following the world chess championship live, watching new DVDs and videos, listening to music and generally feeling fed up with the political developments in the country and the economic developments world-wide. If all these do not create paralysis and leave you unable to react, nothing else will.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Bat-like gargoyle

Or gargoyle-like bat. Anyway, I noticed this strange decoration atop a building along Campbell Street in George Town recently. It looked like a bat but it also looked so like a gargoyle. So what is it?

I wonder what's the story behind this. I know that bats are supposed to be symbols of good luck but in this case, the luck seems to have rubbed off on only one of the two shophouses that share this decoration. Of the two, one is a goldsmith shop but the other is abandoned.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Will I be rid of mealy bugs?

As strange as it may seem, I'm actually looking forward to the next infestation of mealy bugs on my orchid plant. The mealy bugs are real pests.

At first, I used small jets of water from the sprayer to wash off the bugs but I was a little concerned that I might just transfer them from the leaves to the roots. Then, I resorted to using sharp tweezers.

But recently, I bought this small bottle of plant insecticide. It's mentioned on the label that it can be used on insects in general but it specifically mentioned mealy bugs. So watch out, you pesky bugs!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Straits Echo postbag (4)

More chess-related letters that appeared in The Straits Echo in the months following the formation of the Penang Chess Association. Don't be bored....

POSTBAG, 22 April 1972
SIR - Please permit me some space in your newspaper to thank the Hon Secretary of the Penang Chess Association for the explanations in Postbag of April 3 with regard to my letter.

I am happy to note that the Penang Chess Association is giving consideration to its junior members, particularly the students. The questions now are when is this move to be implmented and how is it to be achieved. To be fair to the students, this move should materialise as soon as possible.

I understand that for years now there has been a Penang Schools Chess Council. I suggest that since there is now a chess body in Penang, it is time that this Council should merge into the Association (as an autonomous group, maybe).

I am sorry to say that the Hon Secretary has misconceived some of the points in my letter. I did not mention any names apart from that of the Hon Secretary's and thus it is unfair of the Hon Secretary to come to the conclusion that I was pointing my finger at Mr Thomas Samy, the Treasurer of the Association. I was not questioning Mr Samy's election to the post of Treasurer. What I had meant to convey was that in future there might be a co-opting of librarians, and this should be prevented from happening.

I am not questioning the venue or the address of the Penang Chess Association. In fact, I agree with the Hon Secretary regarding the use of the Penang Library as it is advantageously situated. In the severing of ties, I meant that the Association should not be an activity of the Penang Library or vice versa. From what I have noticed of late, the Association has indeed stopped using the Library, and in this regard I congratulate the Association.

I am fully aware that books pertaining to chess which are at present circulating among the public belong to the Penang Library. The Penang Library is an organisation which has to cater to the general public and thus has to acquire books covering many subjects, chess being one of them.

The Association, however, is a specialist in one field, ie chess. Being that, it is only natural that anybody who wants to further his chess knowledge shduid approach the Association to consult any book or magazine. I think that the Association should take the first step in acquiring such publicatibns.

At the time of writing my first letter I was under the impression that the simultaneous display by Mr Choo Min Wang was initiated by the Penang Free School Chess Club. Since then I have been approached by the Chairman of the above club and it was only then that it came to my notice that Mr Tan Yam San was the first to approach Mr Choo. I would like to take this opportunity in tendering my apology to anybody to whom embarrassment has been caused.

My wish now is that any misunderstanding caused by my letter of March 15 will be cleared up with the above clarifications. I would also like to stress that these discussions through the Press are made without any intention of smearing the good name of the Penang Chess Association.


Penang Free School: 192 years of existence

Today's the 192nd anniversary of the Penang Free School. Only eight years to go before my alma mater reaches its bicentenary year. Founded in 1816, it is the oldest English-medium school in South-East Asia. Although Bahasa Malaysia is now the language of instruction for many subjects, both teachers and students normally converse in the English language if they can still help it.

Instead of putting up a picture of the present school, I think it's more meaningful to show the former premises in Farquhar Street, George Town. The school moved out from here in 1927 and it's now being used appropriately enough as the Penang Museum.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Four faces of the Logan Memorial

I took these photographs quite a while back but never got round to putting them up here. These are the four faces of the Logan Memorial at the corner of Light Street and Duke Street representing Temperance, Justice, Fortitude and Wisdom. But it is a pity that vandalism through the years had caused the memorial to be disfigured. Both Justice and Wisdom have lost their arms while Fortitude is headless. Only Temperance is complete. Hopefully, work can be made to restore the Memorial to its original splendour.

And this is the Logan Memorial at night. I've written about the Logan Memorial several months ago here.

The eyes have it

I caught these images recently at the Bee Chin Heong in Kimberley Street, George Town. Bee Chin Heong is an extensive chain of shops in Penang that sells paraphernalia for the Chinese community. I've featured other images from the shop before but these are the newest mood images, seen from a different angle (or rather, seen three times from a new angle).

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Waking up to Wynton Marsalis

I woke up the whole house this morning with a rousing call from trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. I've had this album for about eight years and decided to give this guy a good spin this morning. Marsalis is more inclined towards jazz but it doesn't mean that he doesn't have a good ear for the classics. In fact, his versatility showed in this album which is a vibrant collection of trumpet music - mostly baroque - by composers such as Vivaldi, Purcell, Handel, Bach, Charpentier, Mozart, Haydn, Hummel, Bernstein and Paganini among several more. If you are in need of some bright music to start off your day, this album will just be the one to use, starting with the first notes of Jeremiah Clarke's The King's March to the final notes of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight Of The Bumblebee. All in, 20 vastly enjoyable tracks.

P.S. I intend to give this next album a listen this afternoon. A compilation of three Joseph Haydn concertoes featuring Yo-Yo Ma (cellist), Wynton Marsalis (trumpeter) and Cho-Liang Lin (violinist). Haydn the composer of the three pieces .... that's the only common thread running through this album. Ma, Marsalis and Lin do not appear with one another.

A motion of no confidence

To have a motion of no confidence called against anyone is a very serious matter. It shows that people are unhappy and they want change. When such a motion is proposed, it usually means that the incumbent - be it a person or a committee - refuses to step down.

About 10 days ago, an emergency meeting was held by the Rukun Tetangga in my housing area. The proponents of this motion was to force the incumbent RT chairman out. It was alleged that the chairman was not doing his job properly and was appointing people into the committee at his whim and fancy.

Of course, the meeting proceeded with the incumbent chairman absent. I didn't expect him to be present. He wouldn't have a leg to stand on. When it came to the vote, it was a unanimous decision. The residents wanted him out and they got him out. And at the same meeting, a new committee was voted it.

It was fun. Imagine, my third time voting this year. Ha ha!!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Is a double-yolked egg tainted food?

sf nothing else, the global tainted food scare just goes to show how some people in China, in an apparent rush to make money fast and easy, are not above board in closing an eye and compromising on people's health. I'm actually quite concerned about how greedy and unscrupulous many of us Chinese are, every where around the world, but nothing can surpass the Chinese traders, middlemen and businesses from China itself because they already have a bad reputation - all least 20 years of bad reputation - which contribute to the mess we're facing right now regarding dairy foodstuff, vegetable, sweets and even biscuits made from ingredients originating from China. Even non-China foodstuff need to be scrutinised carefully in case they use something imported from China. Even worse, there are stories that the Chinese have not learnt any lesson from this: click here to read how recalled dairy products have been openly resold to university students in China at discounted prices!

But China remains the main culprit in this mess. Adulterated milk laced with melamine. Vegetables grown with questionable growth inducers. Chinese traditional medicine with unknown ingredients...tested for mercury and lead content? Yes, some Chinese products may be cheap but at what cost to personal health?

At the market this morning, I suddenly realised that occasionally, we had been buying eggs with double yolks. In the past I hadn't been giving it much thought but today, it hit on me why the egg traders could sell such double-yolk eggs in huge quantities at the market. Okay, I can accept if the rare occasional double-yolk egg turns up in a batch of hundreds of eggs. It can happen, just like twins can occur in births. But when traders openly hawk such eggs by the trays, there must be an explanation. Without cracking open the egg shells, how can they tell that the eggs contain two yolks?

Not unless the hens have been specially bred to produce such eggs. But how can hens be induced to lay such eggs? Through some genetic problem that had been passed down from one generation of chicken to another? Or, more chillingly, were the chickens fed with some chemically-induced feed to make them lay such eggs? Where do chicken farmers buy their feed from? These are just my questions and unless some tests can be made on the eggs and their sources, I wouldn't want to say more than necessary.

But I'd like to share with you a video that I made this morning too. It's been uploaded to YouTube in the public domain. It's one of the eggs in my refrigerator. It looks like a very normal egg, one that you can pick up from the market. But when it's cracked open..... BTW, we've thrown away all the remaining eggs. Now that our suspicions are raised, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Something dishy

Somewhere in Bukit Mertajam....
Some one is having fun
This satellite dish, installed in the open
I wonder...can I also have one?

Elsewhere in Bukit Mertajam...
Isn't one dish more than enough
To receive our satellite TV programme?
Or you need to watch those extra stuff?

The Traveling Wilburys

Finally, I understand all the excitement about The Traveling Wilburys. They were one hell of a tight band of friends who came together to make some of the most interesting folk-rocking, Beatlesque and ELOish music in 1988 and 1990. You have to listen to them in order to understand them. And I did.

From the moment I placed the first disc from The Traveling Wilburys boxed set into my CD player, I knew that there would never be a dull moment. Twelve tracks of rocking music on this disc and 13 more on the second disc.

Who are The Traveling Wilburys? Was there ever a Wilbury family in the music business? An Internet search turned up nothing else and The Traveling Wilburys is simply a stagename.

If you don't know by now, ex-Beatle George Harrison (the late George Harrison) was the moving force for The Traveling Wilburys. He got together his friends and fellow super-star musicians - Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty - and over a 10-day period in1988, they recorded the tracks that made up the first album. Unfortunately, Orbision died in December that year, so the second Wilburys album in 1990 was recorded with only four of the original five.

In addition, there's a DVD with five music videos. Orbison was pretty fantastic in the DVD. In my opinion, he had the best song: Not Alone Any More. And in the video track End Of The Line, the group paid tribute to Orbison by including a rocking chair with his guitar.

Click here
for The Traveling Wilbury's official website.

Click here for the wiki article on The Traveling Wilburys.

Friday, 17 October 2008

How do you measure Maybank's efficiency?

Most of us will recognise this page. It's the login page to It belongs to Malaysia's supposedly premier bank: the biggest in the land, the pride of the country, etc, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, it's also one of the most inefficient. You know why? I'll give you two stories.

Last Tuesday, I tried to access my Maybank account through I was denied access. So I gave their customer service a tinkle. After pressing through a lot of keys, I finally got to talk to one of their customer service personnel.

A lady. She asked me lots of questions to verify my identity. Fair enough. I would have faulted the bank if they didn't. But I really didn't understand one of the questions. The lady asked me for my account number! I told her that I don't have my account number with me. "But you must have," she insisted, "when you opened the account you were given a passbook with the account number." if I don't know. But does any sane person go about carrying his savings account passbook with him wherever he goes? I wanted to ask her whether she carried her passbook with her all the time but I kept my peace. I knew that she was only trying to do her job and her job required her to ask for customer verification. But that question sucked, okay? Never mind, I finally had access to my maybank2u login re-activated.

But my happiness was short-lived. I wanted to do an online bill payment. So after logging in, I went through all the menu choices, identified the payee and filled in the payment account. Darn....maybank2u now required me to request for a Transaction Authorisation Code (TAC). It's an additional level of online banking security and many banks have implemented this. It provides an additional authentication layer that is required when you perform specific transactions like payments or transfers to third-party accounts.

So I clicked on the "Request TAC" link on the page. I waited. After about two minutes when I did not receive the TAC on my mobile, I attempted another request but lo! I was told that I had already requested for one and I couldn't make a second one. Please wait, the message said.

So I waited again. Five minutes. attempted to log me out. I said no. And I waited again. And again. Five minutes turned to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. Finally, I gave up. That was Tuesday, remember? Today is Friday. I still haven't received the TAC on my mobile. That's super-(in)efficiency for you, from Malaysia's premier bank.

(Note: TAC would require a person to register his mobile number with the bank. I have, a long time ago.)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Borders Penang

I dropped by Borders this afternoon and promptly went to their music section. I was shocked.

Last April, the shelves were stacked with compact discs of all genres of music.

Today, more than half the shelves were empty. Reminded me of Old Mother Hubbard. The compact discs were mostly gone and there won't be any replenishment.

I asked the counter what was happening? Is Borders Penang planning to shut down their music section? The answer is yes. They are clearing their stock.

They are offering a "Buy One Free One" while their stock lasts. If you are looking for bargains, now's the time to rummage over what's remaining. I tell you, there are still a lot of gems there. Imported CDs going for a steal.

I managed to pick up these two imported items for a grand total of RM71. Great bargain, in my opinion! The Nice - The Essential Collection is a double-CD set while The Traveling Wilburys boxed set holds two CDs and a DVD. Actually, I'm quite glad that I did not buy these two same sets from the MPH bookstore at MidValley on Sunday. I would have really kicked myself.

He thinks he's forgiven?

Ronaldo, if only it's that simple...

“In the game when I came back against Villarreal I wasn’t nervous but just a bit excited to see how the fans would react to me. Thank God things went well. This shows people have not forgotten all the good things we’ve done together and I’m very happy with that.”

Are you happy with the fuel pump price decrease?

So....I woke up this morning to learn that the petrol prices have gone down. Effective today and not Friday as widely expected. Darn! I had only filled up a full tank on Monday after returning from my sorta faimily reunion last weekend.

But like I've mentioned in the past, what good is this reduction in petrol prices now? True, RON97 is now RM2.30 per litre while RON92 and diesel are now RM2.20 per litre, but what good does this do to our cost of daily food consumables? Will the hawkers pull down their prices too? Will the fish and the meat and the vegetables in the markets be any cheaper?

The only consolation I get from this fuel price reduction is that it's getting slightly cheaper to drive around, burn more petrol and pollute more of the environment. Still, we are driving around at a fuel cost that's still above the pump prices six months ago. The only response that I can give to the Barisan Nasional government is this: SOD YOU for spoiling everything. The damage's been done and nothing, nothing you do can ever bring down the cost of living to before.

What, lah!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Bob Dylan at Newport 1965

Very few artistes have made long-lasting impressions on me. One of them is Bob Dylan whose music is evergreen. I never tire of listening to this old man and his old stuff from the 1960's. When I was in Petaling Jaya last weekend, I picked up three DVDs, this one among them. It showed snippets from his performances at the Newport Folk Festival from 1963 to 1965.

The 1963 and 1964 sets were exclusively acoustic. Just Dylan on his guitar and harmonica. But the ground-setting performance was in 1965. For the first time, Dylan plugged in before a live audience and played three songs with the Butterfield Band (sans Paul Butterfield but with two legendary names: Mike Bloomfield on guitar and Al Kooper on organ). Two songs were featured on this DVD.

This historical performance so shocked purists that Dylan received a fair amount of cheers and jeers. Later, he had to be coaxed back by Pete Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) to appease the crowd with some acoustic numbers. It's all there in the DVD. Interesting.

The Straits Echo postbag (3)

Continuing with my reminiscences of the early days of the Penang Chess Association, here is a third letter from The Straits Echo postbag in the months following the association's founding. Chuan Keat is now the Executive Director and Tax Leader at Price Waterhouse-Coopers.

POSTBAG, 3 April 1972
SIR - As a regular subscriber of your esteemed daily. I have noted with great interest that several letters pertaining to Chess have been published in the Postbag. This undoubtedly reflects an increasing interest in the game exhibited by certain quarters of the public, particularly the students, and goes to show that Chess is fast acquiring popularity in this country.

All Chess authorities concerned should see to it that this suscitation of interest in Chess Is not permitted to wither away. Efforts should be organised to preserve this interest.

The recent formation of the Penang Chess Association is a tremendous boost to the game and it is hoped that the Association will be able to live up to its ideals and serve as a concrete body representing Chess interests in the State.

The activities of the PCA should not only be confined to its small circle of members but should, on the other hand, also cater for all Chess enthusiasts, irrespective of whether he or she is a member or not, in Penang as a whole.

The idea of the simultaneous display by the Malaysion Chess Champion, Mr Choo Min Wang was a terrific one, and it is my fervent hope that more projects of such nature will be conducted by the PCA in the near future to stimulate and promote greater interest in the game.

At long last, the Malaysian Government has finally bestowed upon chess the recognition which it rightly deserves. The Penang Inter-School Chess Championships organised last year by the Han Chiang Primary School on behalf of the Ministry of Education, was undeniably a remarkably good start (three cheers for the Ministry).

An equally befitting follow-up will be to issue circulars to all educational centres advocating the introduction of 'Inter-House Chess ChampionshIps' in their respective institutions (I am referring to those which have not taken the initiative to do so).

I sincerely hope that the Vice-President of the PCA and Deputy Chief Education Officer of Penang, Inche Hashim bin Mydin, will personally look into the feasibility of this suggestion, for I firmly believe that this will go long a way to raising the standard of play at school level. Other moves directed towards consolidating the image of Chess and enhancing its prestige, on the part of the Malaysian Government and/or Ministry of Education, will also be greatly welcomed.

Khoo Chuan Keat

Monday, 13 October 2008

Half measures

Squabbling Cambodian couple Moeun Rim and Nhanh, having have had enough of one another after 40 years of marriage, have literally taken the meaning of "half measures" to new heights.

They are in the midst of a divorce settlement but because Cambodian divorce cases normally take a long time, they decided to take action by dividing all their assets into halves.

First to go was their house. After a bitter feud during which they disagreed on who gets what, they agreed to saw their house in half. Moeun Rim's portion of the house was then removed from the site to an undisclosed location.

The house that remained - or at least, the one-half of the house that remained - is still located in Prey Veng province, about 90km (56 miles) from Phnom Penh. The land on which the half-house stands and which also is a part of the couple's property has also been split four ways with a part for each for them and a part each for their children.

It seemed that Moeun Rim claimed his wife had neglected him when he became ill recently and they started quarelling. It was a sad day when the couple could not reconcile. The local chief, Vorng Morn, said: "We tried to persuade them to think clearly because they had been married for 40 years but they did not listen. They agreed to split the house into two parts. The part that belongs to the husband has been removed but the one that belongs to the wife is standing upright there. She stays there during the daytime."

Are we recession-proof when others are not?

What's the definition of a recession? The rule of thumb definition is that a recession occurs when real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is negative over two or more consecutive quarters. That's why Singapore has already announced that it has now slipped into a recession.

So I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this report today. It was with so much confidence that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters that the country is "not going into recession at the moment because of its strong economic fundamentals, reserves and trade surplus."

For our sake, I hope he is right because I do not have any economic details ready at hand. I hope the government is no longer in a sustained state of denial and he is not joining Najib in trying to hoodwink us.

First crossover?

An ominous sign, if ever there is one. This was reported today by thestar online, Malaysiakini and other news sources after an election petition for the Kulim-Bandar Baru parliamentary seat was struck out by the High Court in Alor Star when the Barisan Nasional suddenly withdrew the petition. However, The Malaysian Insider was more forthcoming with its report about this development, making speculations about the first crossover between the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat. Only difference is, the direction's may not be what you think!

It's nothing new. The speculation is nothing new. I had speculated about it myself a long time ago here and here. So will it happen? All I can say right now is, it's an ominous sign. A person cannot wear two hats like this racist joker. Whatever he does, the shame will follow him.

Sunday, 12 October 2008


It's my reunion of sorts with some of my cousin brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews in Petaling Jaya over the weekend. Not all the Quahs are in the picture, though.

Left to right: Molly Siew Ean, Kheng's son (partly hidden), Jack (Beng's son-in-law), Irene Poh Ean, Beng's wife (partly hidden), Adeline (Beng's daughter), Swee Beng, myself, Swee Kheng, Kheng's wife, Kheng's two sons and Alvin (Beng's son, partly hidden). Not in the photo: Swee Khoon, Swee Siang, Karen (Swee Khoon's daughter) and Shawn and Sidney (Swee Siang's sons)

Friday, 10 October 2008

Is Asia getting nervous now?

How soon will the global financial meltdown hit the banks in Asia? Maybe some are already hit without us knowing. Take, for example, this amusing mock-up on some fictitious banks in Japan:
Following the problems in the sub-prime lending market in America and the run on HBOS in the UK , uncertainty has now hit Japan .

In the last seven hours Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank announced plans to cut some of its branches. Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely go for a song, while today shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nose-dived.

Samurai Bank is soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, Ninja Bank is reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black. Furthermore, 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Land rape in southern mainland Penang

I had meant to write something about this on Sunday but simply didn't have the time. You'll see these open examples (not that you can keep them closed or hushed up) of hill rape and land rape as you drive across the Penang Bridge.

This first example (below) has been around for ages but lately, I see that the clearance has been intensified and more of the hill has been chipped away.

This second picture (below) is relatively new but through time, the bare soil has been exposed more and more. You can even see the tractor and other equipment. What does it mean? The situation was bad at the beginning of the year but it's getting worse.

And finally, the third picture (below). It's too far away to have a good view but clearly, something is brewing on Pulau Aman. In any case, land is being cleared. Where are all our environmentalists when you need them??